I'm liking this draft - my grade after the jump. What's yours?
I'm a homer and I admit it. But in all seriousness, I'm really loving this draft by our Steelers.
Starting off, our biggest problem offensively in recent years - it almost cost us the Super Bowl against the Cardinals - is the lack of push right up the middle. Hartwig was a great pickup because he cost us nothing. But he's serviceable at best and is on the downside of his career. We needed a big guy up front who is smart enough to make the line calls and hold their own against the big DTs in the AFC North. We got that in Maurkice Pouncey.
While everyone thought we'd go CB/S in the 2nd round, the Steelers saw that there was a huge run on those guys and the value wasn't there. With our OL set and the draft deep in WRs, the Steelers went after another position of need - OLB Jason Worilds. I live in ACC country and saw Worilds play. I don't know if he's a keeper or a bust (you can never tell with converted DEs), but he's the prototypical OLB for our system and can get after the QB. The guy is explosive - look at his vertical jump and 40 times from the combine. This kid has the tools and the talent to be a good one.
I can't say I know much about our 3rd pick, Emmanuel Sanders, but I think this is a case of the Steelers trying to catch lightning in a bottle again. It worked out well last year with Mike Wallace and they drafted another guy with amazing physical skills and a track record that backs it up. He has the kind of track record that makes you want to take a chance on him. It worked out wonderfully last year. Can lightning strike twice?
So in the 4th, we nabbed Thaddeus Gibson. I'm sure the Steelers were shocked to see this guy still on the board and so they grabbed the BPA. Very strong (32 reps), very quick (4.27 shuttle) and a good performer for a top college program, he and Worilds can push each other to see who can grab the backup OLB spot. One of these two guys will replace James Harrison in 3 years...count on it.
After filling needs at WR, OLB and OL, we just had a couple of areas of need left. One was CB/S and the other is a backup OT. After another run at CB/S, we took OT Chris Scott from Tennessee. I can't say I'm overly happy about this pick, but we need a guy since Hills doesn't look like he's going to do anything. Scott is a powerful blocker and should be a road-grader type if he stays in shape. A high risk/high reward pick, but in the 5th round I'm good with that. Plus, our last OL from Tenn worked out very well...Ramon Foster.
Then we traded another 5th to bring back Bryant McFadden. There's our CB/S and he's far more game-day ready than anyone we could have selected. Don't forget that our S need was probably filled by Will Allen, at least in the short term. McFadden wanted way too much money a couple of years ago and I thought we did the right thing by letting him leave....but it's nice to have him back now in our hour of need.
We headed back to ACC country to take Crezdon Butler, a fast, explosive (are we seeing a pattern yet?) CB from Clemson. He's undoubtedly a project, but will push guys like Burnett and Lewis for a roster spot.
Then we select LB Stevenson Sylvester. I have no idea why, but the organization obviously likes him - and they must to select a 3rd LB in this draft.
Back to ACC country yet again for a guy I was hoping we'd pick up, Jonathan Dwyer. A 5'11", 230 pound back who rushed for 1,395 yards each of the last two seasons, this guy can move the pile and has a nose for the endzone (26tds the last two years). He's a one-cut guy that had been projected as perhaps a 2nd round pick. Getting him with the 19th pick in the 6th round is an absolute steal. No one is the 2nd coming of Jerome Bettis, but I think Dwyer will be our first true game-day power back since the Bus (no offense to the Tank, but I don't think he makes the team).
So if this embarassment of riches wasn't enough, we nab Antonio Brown, a very quick player (top 10 time in both shuttles) who has averaged over 100 catches in the last 3 years. He dropped this far because he may not have the straight line speed for the next level nor the classic size to go over the middle. But the Steelers have had a lot of success with guys like this - very quick, slightly undersized pass-catchers who can make something out of nothing.
To wrap up the draft, we tapped DE Doug Worthington, another Ohio State player. At 6'5", 292, this is a big, strong guy who can hold up two blockers. He was projected as a 3rd-5th round guy, so to get him late in the 7th makes him a good buy. He's a perfect DE candidate for our system.
Of course, it's too early to tell whether any of these guys pan out. Chances are that only a couple of them will go on to make an impact. But we filled the needs we had to fill. We should have a top interior lineman to carry on the great tradition of Steeler centers. We have 3 exceptional candidates to try to fill the shoes of James Harrison in a couple of years. We have an amazing physical talent at WR and another one who has caught a minimum of 93 balls each year in his 3-year college career. We got a guy who we know can start at CB, a guy to push the CBs we drafted last year, a really talented power RB and backup RT to start to groom.
So what didn't we get? We didn't get the NT that I though we would. I have to think the Steelers are high on Ra'Shon Harris since they passed up obvious candidates at NT. We didn't get the safety I thought we'd get, but there was such a run on DBs in this draft I'm glad we didn't reach for one. I'm comfortable with Troy, Clark, Allen and Mundy - and because so many safeties were taken, there's going to be a few available on the open market when cuts happen this fall.
All in all, I'm seriously jazzed about this draft. I don't generally grade drafts this early, but I think we've done really well this year and we'll look on this draft as one that restocked our Steelers for years to come.